The resume is the document that gets you in the door at a new company. I cannot stress how important it is to invest time and energy into this process. I can assure you that it will pay off. In this article, I provide 5 tips that you should consider when writing your tech resume.
Start with the Basics: It's really important to get the basics right when building your resume. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Limit your resume to 1 or 2 pages. Generally if you have less then 5 years of experience, it should be 1 page.
- Don't use long paragraphs that go on and on. The first time your resume gets reviewed, it might be a brief scan looking for keywords.
- Use bullets where possible as this adds to the scanability of the document.
- Explain acronyms - not everyone reading your resume is a techie.
- Include your updated contact information and best phone number to reach you.
- Use keywords in your resume. Instead of saying "proficiency in database administration", say "proficiency in SQL Server and MySQL".
- Proof read your resume. A typo on a resume is like a black eye. Get a friend to review your resume before posting or sending out.
I am not going to cover everything about the basics because it's already been covered by many qualified people. Check out the article How to Write a Resume from my About.com colleague, Alison Doyle, Guide to Job Searching.
- Tailor Resume for Each Job: While this seems obvious, you wouldn't believe how many generic resumes I have seen over the years. Your resume is what will get you to the interview. Human Resources folks are matching your resume against the requirements of the position or even search their database of resumes for keywords. It's important that you highlight your skills and experience that fit the position you are applying for. Read the job posting very carefully. If you are applying for a .NET developer position and your resume talks about your vast experience with VMWare, it won't make it past the resume screener. You need to be specific. Now, if in fact you don't have experience with .NET, you might not want to apply for that position as it will just waste everyone's time.
You should also research the company you are applying to and find out what they look for in a candidate. You can often find this information on the company's website or if the company is large enough, you might find this information on the web.
It's a good idea for you to keep a full list of your accomplishments organized by skill type or some other categorization. When applying for a position, pull from this list so you are not starting from scratch.
One last thing is to keep track of which resume was sent to which company. I interviewed a candidate a while back and he was unable to elaborate on a skill included on his resume. He didn't get a call back.
Focus on Results: The consideration of financial aspects of a business continues moving down in organizations. What I mean by this is, for example, that developers and designers might be asked to consider the ROI on an enhancement before taking on a project. This impacts how candidates are being evaluated for positions.
Today's companies are expecting staff members from all levels to consider the financial ramifications of their investments and projects. This is being felt in IT teams even more as companies invest in technology to drive revenue and reduce expenses. The days of building a slick application because it's cool are over. I suggest that you consider the results of projects on your resume instead of focusing on the technology only. Let;s say you built a shopping cart application in your past job.
- One option would be to say "Developed a cool shopping cart application in Java and Flash".
- The better option would be to focus on the business and say, "Increased revenue by developing shopping cart for ecommerce website. The Java/Flash based application improved user experience which resulted in a 50% decrease in abandoned ecommerce transactions". You get the point.
- Deal With Employment Gaps: The best scenario would be to limit gaps in employment. If you are in the position where you are unemployed, going back to school to learn a new skill or even volunteering by using your skills and experience can help deal with gaps in employment. You might even turn a negative situation of being unemployed for a period into an opportunity to show how resourceful you are when faced with adversity. Indicate this in your resume.
Also, think outside the box when dealing with the employment gaps. I interviewed a candidate for a programmer position who had a gap in his employment of a year. I found out that this individual was in the "part time armed forces" and deployed to Iraq. Even more impressive was that he took on many IT responsibilities during that time including developing a website for soldiers to share information and keeping PCs and servers running in difficult conditions. This should have been on his resume instead of a gap in employment. Be creative (but honest) when dealing with employment gaps.
Provide Supporting Documentation: First of all, make sure you clean up your social networking profiles and content. If you have a LinkedIn profile, which I strongly recommend, make sure it's up to date and consistent with your resume (at least the public parts). Remove any crazy profile pictures from Facebook while you are seeking a new job. As far as supporting documentation for your resume, there are several things you can do that add value to you as a candidate.
- Maintain a be a tech blog. You can showcase your detailed understanding of your particular expertise and also you'rr writing ability.
- If you are applying for a design position, a personal website highlighting some of your designs or websites you have developed would be great.
- If you are applying for a programming position and want to post some of your code, be careful. You don't want to post thousands of lines of code without context. Instead, provide samples and explain what problem you solved or what programming method you used. No one is could to pour through you code and try to figure out what you are doing.